Down the stretch they come
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
PEACH VALLEY, Colorado – Coal Ridge girls soccer coach Brian Blair knew one more goal would be enough. His Titans got him three.
Erupting for three goals in a span of roughly four minutes, Coal Ridge held off a dead-legged Aspen squad, 5-1, in Peach Valley on Saturday.
With the Titans nursing a 2-1 lead, Ashlie Bowles began the late blitz by gaining a step on the defense in the right flat and sending a shot inside the far post in the 68th minute.
Paige Ryan and Kelsey Fauser followed by linking up on a pair of goals.
Taking a pass from Ryan, a wide-open Fauser buried a shot from about 10 yards out in the 71st minute.
Near the end of the 72nd minute, Fauser returned the favor by sending a ball Ryan’s way. Pushing ahead of the defense, Ryan took care of the rest.
“That third one, I thought, would put the game away,” Blair said. “Getting that third one made me feel like it was taking a little bit out of their legs. I think it was their third game in four days, so it’s hard, mentally and physically, to play when you’re chasing the game the whole time.”
Aspen indeed was playing its third game in four days. Worse for the Skiers, all three were on the road. They defeated Roaring Fork, 3-1, on Wednesday and then lost to Basalt, 2-1, in double overtime on Thursday.
Saturday’s game originally was scheduled to be played in Aspen, but, with a foot of snow blanketing the Skiers’ home field, the teams agreed to play at Coal Ridge.
“This is our third game this week and we play three more next week,” Aspen coach John Gillies lamented. “These kids are tired, beaten up. We have some injuries. The concentration’s not there.”
The fatigue didn’t show in the early stages of Saturday’s game. After even play for much of the first half, the Titans finally got on the board in the 34th minute.
Allie Ehlers opportunistically pounced on an Alicia Cokley corner kick that made its way through traffic in front of the net to put the hosts ahead.
Just before halftime, Kayli Hunter made it 2-0 by cashing in a cross from Cokley. Hunter was positioned left of goal as she took Cokley’s pass, which flew in from the right corner.
“That’s what [Kayli] does,” Blair said. “She hunts the back post as an outside mid. That’s how she always scores.”
The Skiers drew within a goal just 1 minute, 55 seconds into the second half. Keile Kropf cleared a three-player Coal Ridge wall with a free kick from about 20 yards out. The high shot curved its way inside the left post.
The Titans knew Kropf, who leads Aspen with 17 goals, would be tough to contain.
“She’s a really good player,” Ryan said. “We knew she could take long shots from outside the box, so we knew we really had to mark her.”
Ryan and company kept the Skiers off the board the rest of the way, improving to 11-2 overall in the process. With one league loss, Coal Ridge sits behind both undefeated Basalt and Vail Mountain School in the 3A Western Slope standings entering the final week of the regular season.
While the Titans, who suffered a 2-1 loss to VMS on April 5, don’t have full control of their fate in the league title chase, Blair hopes they finish on a high note.
“The reality is, when we lost to Vail, we said, ‘Vail, it’s yours to take,'” Blair said. “We can’t change that. All we can do is make sure we win everything we have left.”
Coal Ridge travels to Vail Christian on Monday for a 3:15 p.m. game and then closes the regular season against visiting Basalt at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
The Skiers (7-4 overall) continue their busy schedule with games at VMS on Monday (4 p.m.) and at Colorado Rocky Mountain School on Tuesday (4 p.m.). They’ll finish out the regular season at home against VMS on Thursday (4:30 p.m.).
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